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Curiosities of ancient Rome (Food)

The world of ancient Romans abounded in a number of amazing curiosities and information. The source of knowledge about the life of the Romans are mainly works left to us by ancient writers or discoveries. The Romans left behind a lot of strange information and facts that are sometimes hard to believe.

Romans knew rice

Rice was known in ancient times. Ancient Rome imported the so-called rice seed (Oryza sativa) from India, as a luxury product to be added to food or used as a medicine.

Rice

Roman fresco showing daily expenses

We learn a lot about the expenses of ordinary citizens of course from Pompeii. It was there in one of the houses that the Roman “graffiti” survived; the resident calculates his expenses on the wall for the next five days (prices in asses).

Roman fresco showing the sale of bread in the market

Mullet – delicacy of ancient Romans

As reported by Pliny the Elder1, who lived in the middle of the 1st century CE, one of the most eaten fish among the ancient Romans was the red mullet. As he himself points out, the fish has a “double beard” (mullus barbatus) and is not suitable for breeding, and the best specimens can be found in open waters.

Mullet on the Roman mosaic

Roman lunch

The basic ingredient of Roman’s dinner was bread made of various types of flour: black bread (panis rusticus, plebeius), white bread (panis secundaris) and the softest bread luxurious (panis candidus, uniform). There was no shortage of vegetables, lettuce, cabbage, leeks, chickpeas, broad beans (boiled, roasted), goat cheese and olives.

Roman lunch

Onions – delicacy of Romans

Onion was extremely popular in ancient Roman times, and therefore it is probably still used in many dishes in Europe. With the conquest of Europe, the Romans took the vegetable with them to various regions, including Germany or Britain. In Rome, onions were considered an aphrodisiac.

Onions - delicacy of Romans

Trojan pig – Roman dish

Information about a luxurious Roman dish – the so-called The “Trojan pig” comes from the 5th century and we owe it to the scientist Macrobius. Macrobius himself describes the meaning of the dish as follows: “made pregnant with other animals and enclosed within as the Trojan horse was made pregnant with armed men”.

Pig with porcini on a Roman mosaic. It is located in the Vatican Museums in Rome

How did ancient Romans eat their meals?

Ancient Romans consuming soup mainly used spoons made of bronze, animal bones or wood. Richer Romans used silver cutlery. The so-called ligula a small dessert spoon. There was another type, for example coclear – a spoon with a sharp tip for pulling snails out of the shell or eating an egg. What else was used to eat?

Roman feast

Cumin in ancient times

Ancient Rome used a range of overseas spices such as black pepper, long pepper, ginger, cardamom and cinnamon. However, the most frequently used raw materials, both in cooking and in medicine, that were grown locally – coriander, mint and Roman cumin. The last of them was used both as an ingredient of dishes, a cosmetic raw material and a ritual plant. Where was this spice traded? What diseases were treated with it? Answer in the article below.

Fresco from Pompeii

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